Matthew: That makes a ton of sense. By the way, on that one, many educators out there will recognize this principle because we talk a lot about having asset models, not deficit models. So when it comes to maybe students' skills and achievement, focusing on those things and highlighting those things that students are really good at, even as we try to sure up the areas that they may have some struggle in. So that reconciles beautifully in the world of education. The other thing I thought was interesting is you have this idea of, kind of put it out there, say what you want to go after. Make your goals known. Did you always do that? Were you in college telling people you were going to be a CEO? How did you come upon that sort of principle?
Shellye: Yeah. Good question. Because you're right, I believe you have to tell the universe what you want so the universe can help you. So here I was, I was a sophomore, and the French Club was getting ready to do elections for who was going to run the French Club. Well, I'm a sophomore, right? Sophomores don't get elected to things like that. Those go to the seniors. Maybe a junior. But I really wanted to be president of the French Club, and I thought I, frankly, could do a better job. And so I was talking to one of my friends about, I'd really like to do this. And they say, "Oh, you should do it." And I said, "Ah, I'm not sure, blah, blah, blah." And so, with their encouragement, it was like, okay, I'm going to do this. Well, if I'm going to do this, I need to tell people that I want to do this and why I want to do this; otherwise, I'm not going to have a shot at all.
So the French Club wasn't that big. So I went around to tell everybody that I wanted to do this and why I wanted to do this. And sure enough, I actually got elected as president; made the senior who was running really mad, and she ended up quitting the group. But I did. And that was probably the first time it was like, okay, I put it out there. It was risky, but I put it out there. And so I learned, you know what, if you don't tell people, they can't help you because [of the] people I told, some people are like, "Oh, that's great."
They offered to make posters. Right? "Oh, I can help you with this." And if I had just kept to myself and waited till the election day and put it out there, I wouldn't have gotten all this help. So yeah. You never know who can be helpful. It could be a neighbor. It could be somebody at the gym. You never know who can be helpful. So if they don't know what your aspirations are, then you're definitely not going to get any help. But if they do know, you might be surprised by how many people will be helpful, as long as you share it in the right way.
Matthew: That's right. And say more about that. What's the right way?
Shellye: Well, you can't go around saying, "So I want to be a CEO," right? No, you can't walk around and say, "Okay, I'm going to be a CEO one day. So, everybody, get in line." Right? I mean, that's just obnoxious. Nobody wants to work with people like that. But instead, what I learned was okay, two things, one when I first started IBM, matter of fact, I didn't even start full-time. I was working as an intern. One of the IBMers just asked me, just casually, because I'm in college/working intern, "Oh, what do you want to do when you get out of college? What do I do with your career?" And I said, "I want to be a CEO." And the person looked at me, and I thought, okay, maybe I shouldn't say that right away.
So, what I learned was to pick a role a couple [of] levels above wherever I was. Oh. So one day, I hope to be a marketing manager. All right. I want to run a branch. I want to run a division. I just kept moving it ahead for three or four steps cause people could envision that. The other thing I would do is instead of telling people, "This is what I want to do." I would ask them if they thought I had potential. I'd say, "One day, I aspire to be a director of blah, blah, blah. Do you think I have the potential?" Now what I've done is I've told them what I want to do. But I did it in a way that was very open, right? If anything, I was asking for their advice, asking for their perspective. It was not an in your face, I'm going to do this, so figure it out. It was, I want to do this. What do you think? So, I find that most people, if asked in the right way or approached in the right way, will actually like to help.
Matthew: Yeah. That's super smart. In saying it that way, you're also, in some ways, enlisting their support in helping you get there. Right?
Shellye: Yes. You nailed it. Now, listen, Matthew, you nailed it. Cause that was like the first step of my process. So I would say things just like that. I want it to this one day; do you think I have the potential? And they would always say yes. Now, why did they say yes? Well, if they didn't think you have potential, you wouldn't be working for the company or the organization or the school. So, of course, you have potential, plus it's an easy yes. There's nothing to measure that or hold anybody accountable. So they'll say yes. And when they say, yes, it's like a fish biting on a hook because now you get to say, "Wonderful. What advice do you have for me on," and then be specific on either skills I need to build, experiences I should have, the right people I should talk to, whatever it happens to be.
They are almost forced to answer you because they've just told you that you have potential. So if they then have nothing to say, they look kind of weak. Therefore, they always say something, and guess what? Take the advice. Whatever they say, take the advice. And then report back. "Oh, you suggested that I talk to so-and-so, or you recommended that I build this skill. Here's what I've done. Is this what you meant? What do you think?" All of a sudden, they realized that, oh my goodness, they're actually impacting you. So now they're vested in you. And if you keep doing this before you know it, you actually have a mentor, and if you do well in your career, they can actually turn into a sponsor because now they want to take credit for you. "Oh, Shellye's rising. She's doing well. Oh, yeah, yeah. I give her advice from time to time." Right. They want credit. They want to take credit, which is great. I want everybody to take credit for me.
Matthew: I want to end on a note of, now that we've heard your journey, heard your story, I want to, again, thank you for everything that you have done and all that you've shared, but I want to end by asking you, to the educators out there, what advice do you have for them on how could we create a 100,000 more Shellye Archambeaus?
Shellye: I see the number one job of a leader in any organization is to actually create more leaders because you should be building teams underneath you to execute [and] get things done. And do you need to make sure that's happening? Absolutely. But it's the leader's job to make sure that you're actually developing the human capital that's around you. Because if you don't have more leaders coming up the chain, then everything you've done and built is at risk. The legacy that you need to leave is that you are leaving stronger, better leaders behind you to continue the work and make an impact. So, my biggest advice is [to] focus on building leaders in your organization.
Matthew: That's right. I would say also to add to that, tying it back to your story, for students and young children, believing that you can be a leader is so important. And for you, it was a teacher taking you horseback riding. For others, it's going to be something else. But having that connection and building those relationships with students so that you can help them see themselves in the future in roles like what Shellye has engaged in, I think, is super powerful as well.
Shellye: I fully agree. And I see that part of it as building leaders, right? How do you build future leaders? You help them understand their capability. You help them understand what they can do. You build that overall confidence, and you set high expectations because if you believe they can do it, then they begin to believe that they can do it.
Matthew: That's right. That's right. And you take them horseback riding. That doesn't hurt either. Shellye, it's been great to have you on Shaping the Future. Thank you so much for your time.
Shellye: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
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